Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On the marriage of racism and sexism at Halloween

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I have always had a hard time digesting the hypersexualized costumes that so many women don for Halloween. Could all of these women really be sitting around in their everyday clothing just dying to take it all off at first opportunity? What kind of sick male fantasy is that? And why are women so eagerly complicit in this?

These are questions that I have had for a long time but the bloggers over at racialicious brought a whole new level of analysis to this discussion that was very much needed. I strongly encourage you all to read it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

On Ron Paul's Scary Cross-Over Appeal

I am increasingly concerned about the relative popularity of republican candidate Ron Paul amongst progressive and liberal people. This Saturday I went to a peace rally and marched down the streets of downtown Chicago. Of course, such a rally was bound to be rife with people pushing presidential candidates. The ones that I saw the most of were Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul. Hell, Ron Paul's people even had an aerial banner! The general feeling that I got from these pacifists, hippies, liberals, and general anti-war types was support for this anti-war constitutionalist. Dr. Paul is a dangerous candidate precisely because of his growing cross-over support. Here is a some of the scary stuff I found over at his campaign website:

I am also the prime sponsor of HR 300, which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn.

Many talk about being pro-life. I have taken direct action to restore protection for the unborn.

I have already discussed my concern with his popularity amongst liberal television personalities. But I should also say that I am concerned with the depoliticization of reproductive rights issues. I did a little bit of research and had a hard time coming up with a position on women's issues and LGBT issues on the part of ALL of the candidates. Why are liberal folks turning their back on Roe v. Wade? I know it is a messy political area but we need protection now more than ever and I have to say, none of these candidates are really sounding very good to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Victim-Blaming on The Dr. Phil Show

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I have already mentioned that I love to watch the Dr. Phil Show. I love it precisely because he so completely embodies the enemy that I am dedicating my life to eradicating.

Anyway, last week I caught an episode about O.J. Simpson’s new book If I Did It. Now, I was only ten years old when most of the murder trial and media storm took place. So, naturally, I didn’t have much of an opinion on the situation when it occurred. However, as a grown-up feminist, I can see, quite plainly that this man was violent and abusive and because of his hyper-masculine, hyper-violent personality, he decided to teach his wife a lesson in male dominance.

And as if beating her throughout their marriage, murdering her and her friend, and facing no consequences were not bad enough, he has now decided to publish a hypothetical book about what he would have done if he had committed the murders. To which I, and probably anyone who witnessed that trial, say a loud and resounding “Ha!”

Of course he did it. That is really a moot point now because he cannot be tried again. However, the ghostwriter of the book, Pablo Fenjves, had some very interesting things to say to Dr. Phil. Fenjves maintains his belief that Simpson is guilty because of the attitude that he displayed when discussing Nicole Brown.

Fenjves told Dr. Phil that O.J.’s attitude was “If I did it, she had it coming.”

To this Dr. Phil said, O.J. is obviously guilty because he was trying to justify murdering Nicole. He then said what a tragedy it was that an innocent man had to die.

Because she was not innocent? Her friend was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she was a bad wife so she deserved it? That was the attitude of Dr. Phil throughout the show. Now I am not sure if he was just pandering to the family of the deceased man (the one’s who actually had the book published) or if this is actually what he believes. Because of his record on women’s issues in the past, I am inclined to believe the latter.

Almost 15 years after her death and she is still being blamed. Sheesh.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Body Poltics of Britney Spears

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For the longest time I have avoided this topic mostly out of disinterest but also because I was not sure exactly how I felt. Well the tides have turned and I MUST say something.

A few days ago one of my very close feminist friends informed me that Britney Spears had lost custody of her children and what a good thing that is. It was more than a bit disconcerting to hear someone for whom I have a great deal of respect so openly revel in the pain and suffering of a woman who lost her children.

I'll be completely honest, I have not kept up with this story so feel free to inform me if I am misstating something. But I wonder why Americans are so delighted by Britney Spears' very public destruction.

Here's what I know about Britney:
-she became a star in her early teenage years but had been in the spotlight for some time prior to that
-she [her image, likeness, etc.] is owned by a music production company
-after she became famous, this production company turned her into a sex symbol and cashed in
-she got married had two children and was in the spotlight then for her changing (i.e. not teen-aged) body
-having been in the spotlight for the entirety of her adult life she had a bit of a breakdown (very likely postpartum depression) and chopped off her hair (symbol of her feminine beauty) and became a pariah for people who expect very different behavior from their pop stars
-this and other odd (i.e. non-feminine, non-maternal) behaviors cause her parenting skills to be called into question
-her most recent stage performance was a bit of a disaster and questions about her weight began to circulate [i.e. people calling her "fat" (seriously?? her?)]
-her now ex-husband gains full custody of her two children

This is what I know.

The first thing that pops into my mind is: why do we delight so much in witnessing this young woman's destruction?

The same country that made her a star, the same people who turned her into a sex object and loved watching the sweet, blonde virgin take it all off, the same people who keep buying the magazines, watching the gossip shows and utterly invading her privacy are now stunned and simultaneously pleasured by her destruction.

Now I have never been a fan of Spears' music and I think that her body politic is extraordinarily problematic especially since she is simultaneously marketed to young girls as an idol and to men as a masturbatory fantasy. But note how I write that "she is marketed" as if she is no longer an independent entity but a piece of public property. Not long ago one of my friends and I got into a debate about whether Spears' chose this life path. My friend argued that she deserves what is happening to her because she chose to become a part of the public domain. But remember, she was but a child when she made that choice and she hardly could have anticipated the hyper-sexualization and invasion that would come along with that "choice." Further, does anyone really deserve that kind of dehumanization?

Spears most certainly is owned by a production company who is making a nice tidy profit off of all of this "self-" destruction. One has to wonder if the motives behind her sexy rise to fame and her shocking downfall are not just another part of the scheme to make spectacle-driven Hollywood producers filthy rich at her expense. I for one am skeptical as to whether or not Spears even exists. She would not need to for all of this hubbub to be going on. Just the idea of her is enough.

So I ask that you all challenge the pleasure you receive from watching Spears' destruction and ask why seeing a woman publicly lose her marriage and her children and quite likely suffer from a mental illness is so delightful? It is sickening and, frankly, quite telling.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Chronicles of Jan (Part II)

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As you already know, I love NBC’s The Office. I love it! So you can imagine how eagerly I awaited the season four premiere last Thursday. The episode did not disappoint. We finally got to see Pam and Jim together! Michael resumed his position as Regional Manager of the Scranton branch and Dwight resumed his positions as Assistant to the Regional Manager.

Perhaps one of the largest changes in the show was that Ryan ‘the temp’ Howard took Jan’s place as Michael’s boss. I mentioned in my last post how upset I was about the drastic and frankly quite unrealistic turn Jan’s character took at the end of the third season. And I was very disappointed to see that the opening of the fourth season offered little hope for Jan.

Before I get into that I should also mention that I listened to the cast commentary on the DVD of the last episode of the third season. I was interested in their interpretation of Jan’s ‘breakdown.’ Melora Hardin is the first one to say how much she loves the way that Jan’s character is ‘developing.’ Most of the cast agrees that they would not have foreseen this in the future for Jan based upon her earlier character. However, no one on the cast challenges why Jan’s character was written this way. In fact, they praise the writers for making her such an interesting and complex character.

Again, I ask: Why do we delight so much in seeing that bitch taken down a notch?

The so-called ‘self-destruction’ of Jan’s character is little more than a culturally condoned backlash against a very strong woman who is no less loveable than say, Donald Trump and we think of him as an icon, a self made man, someone to aspire to.

The absolute woman hatred that is embedded in the writing of Jan’s character goes unchallenged by nearly everyone involved in the show and, indeed, many viewers of the show. We need to ask ourselves why the writers of such a wildly popular show felt the need to destroy the most powerful (if a bit over the top) female voice on the show. The season four opener saw Jan passed out in Michael’s condo (they conveniently omitted the scene where we see that all of the furniture in the condo is Jan’s). She didn’t make another appearance until the “Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run For The Cure.” In that scene Jan bitchily and jealously accuses Pam of trying to steal her man. “He’s mine, okay. So HANDS OFF!”

At this point I feel the need to remind viewers of Jan just a few months earlier. She had a very lucrative career, was freshly divorced, was totally in charge in her relationship with Michael whom she openly detests. Why would a woman with so much culturally valued ‘power’ and capital give it all up for a man as loathsome as Michael?

The answer is that she wouldn’t. But backlash climates allow for all sorts of stretches of reality in order to show women where their real priorities should be: wearing stretch pants, living in the boyfriend’s condo, with fresh breast implants, and plenty of jealous rage toward other women.